MADRID – Wayne Griffiths takes over Oct. 1 as CEO of Spanish automaker SEAT, saying his most important goals are to stabilize the business and return it to profitability in 2021.
He also remains head of Cupra, SEAT’s performance brand.
Griffiths replaces Carsten Isensee, who was named acting CEO after Luca de Meo left earlier this year to become head of French automaker Renault. Isensee returns to his previous responsibility at SEAT as executive vice president-finance.
SEAT, a subsidiary of the Volkswagen Group, has fallen on hard times thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, with sales of only 190,000 units in the first half, compared with 310,000 in same-period 2019. Net operating losses in first-half 2020 totaled €271 million ($318.5 million), compared with €216 million ($254 million) in like-2019.
European car sales began recovering in the summer, however, and so did exports from automakers with assembly operations in Spain. The SEAT plant at Martorell is operating at full capacity – up to 2,000 units per day – driven mainly by German demand.
However, even if this rate is sustained through the end of the year only 365,000 vehicles will leave the Martorell plant this year, down one-third from the 500,000 assembled in 2019.
Just one day before assuming his new duties at SEAT, Griffiths launched production of the Cupra Formentor, a so-called CUV coupe that is emerging as a key to the consolidation of the Cupra brand. Half of all Cupras sold in 2021 will be Formentor models scheduled to be assembled at a rate of 160 units per day (left).
The Formentor will come fitted with a variety of gasoline engines with up to 310 hp and a plug-in hybrid due in January and expected to account for more than 50% of orders. Formentor also will be the first Cupra to offer a diesel.
Also next year, Cupra plans to launch its first battery-electric vehicle, the Cupra el-Born.
Cupra is acquiring an identity and organization increasingly independent from SEAT, with its own departments for sales, marketing, network development, fleets and aftermarket. In addition, Cupra will have its own dealer network in Spain.
Cupra’s sales figures are still modest, with a total of 55,000 units delivered since the introduction of the brand in 2018. By 2021 it is expected to double 2020’s sales volume of 15,300 and post revenues of €1 billion ($1.2 billion).